Bonhoeffer, evangelical or German liberal theologian? Thoughts to consider.

By Ninos Hadjirousou

In the early years of my Christian life, i was enthusiastically introduced ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ by Bonhoeffer. This was a great encouragement for me in my early years, as i was trying to find books and works from old Christians who spoke about following Christ with a cost. Even loosing their own lives. I also was a fan of Bonhoeffer after being inspired by a movie about his life on Youtube. I was listening to all the interviews about Eric Metaxa’s book on Bonhoeffer, whom i regarded with other evangelical’s, as hero of the faith. Even though i thought part of his theology, that we find in the ‘Cost of Discipleship’ particularly ‘the sermon on the mount’ was sound and well balanced, things become more confusing when i began to listen to an interesting debate between two Bonhoeffer scholars on the Albert Mohler program. Admittingly it made an impression on me. For what was presented, made me to become more cautious of what is sold in the Christian bookshops. Is Bonhoeffer an evangelical? I was not going to pay much attention to it i thought to myself. And don’t we often do that when one of our favourite men that we admire and love is then put into question. Let’s be frank, we never desire to actually listen all the real truth regarding a persons life and theology. In the end, we decide and determine not because we see reality and truth. We rather judge according to how we feel about that particular person we admire. Some books , biographical ones, have been written to keep only those things which would attract the persons attention and leave out the bad parts. As we remember well: half truth, is not full truth.

It was just recently after a conversation about Bonhoeffer that i came to a sense of duty to find out what is it that people say about him and is it true? Bonhoeffer has been a grey area for many. For some, he is so evangelical that he not possibly be liberal. Yet when i ask them what they know about German liberal theology, of liberal theology in America (the book from G.Machen Christianity and Liberalism) they have no idea what that is.

I have heard and read the experts of Bonhoeffer and one in particular caught my attention. Richard Weikart from California State University, responding to Eric Metaxa’s book brought evidence on the table when he said : “As orthodox as Paul? Metaxas does not seem to know that in his Christology lectures in 1933 Bonhoeffer claimed, “The biblical witness is uncertain with regard to the virgin birth.”

He also added that Bonhoeffer “Bonhoeffer also rejected the notion of the verbal inspiration of scripture, and in a footnote to Cost of Discipleship he warned against viewing statements about Christ’s resurrection as ontological statements (i.e., statements about something that happened in real space and time). Bonhoeffer also rejected the entire enterprise of apologetics, which he thought was misguided” (

At this point many of you begin to feel uncomfortable about the things said above. Yet if we forget what we feel and what nice things made us feel while reading Bonhoeffer, shouldn’t this not concern us as Evangelicals?

At this time, i will spend time writing to you all the things that others have written. My aim is to assist in that investigation. Let us not take into consideration what Metaxas wrote about Bonhoeffer just because it is best selling in the Christian book shops. Not take into consideration that he appeared on Desiring God speaking about the book and endorsed by John Piper or Rick Warren. Let us rather consider the theological weightiness and scholarship experience of the men who know him well. Weikart is one of them. Let us also consider the comments of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Theological Seminary: “there is no way that we can insert that Dietrict Bonhoeffer believed in the innerancy of Scripture. You have two different lines of evidence there, in the first place, he openly critiques scripture. For instant on the virgin birth, he suggest there is some question about the textual basis. You also have his clear undermining of clear revelation in history” “his relationship with Carl Barth”. He questioned also the historicity and the place of the Resurrection of Christ Mohler adds. He added that Bonhoeffer in his works ‘Ethic’s’ believe as Carl Barth did in Universalism explicitly.

“My evaluation of D. Bonhoeffer begins with this: he like all of us, was the son of his times.” “And he was part of the education that produced him” he went to university in Berlin and “breathed deeply the liberal theology and the assumptions of his time. He affirmed Biblical criticism. Thus he came to the entire task of theology with his understanding of Scripture.”

Mohler has reason to joke around. He bares the responsibility as a Seminary president for the training of young ministers. As you consider what is written here in this article please judge for yourself where Bonhoeffer stands. If the words he said in his lectures regarding Scriptures, published are true, then we must run away from him, even though we can admire his courage against the Nazis.


For consideration read:




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